Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Arrastre de Caudas

Just a short reminder of the very old and very symbolic and very cool celebration of the "dragging of the trains" which will take place again this year on the Wednesday of Holy Week in Quito, Ecuador. This custom seems to date back all the way to the Roman Empire. Roman soldiers who had fallen in battle were covered with a big black flag, which was supposed to absorb their fighting-spirit. The flag was then carried past the mourning soldiers, all dressed in black, and the mojo of the fallen was thus passed on to the living.

The church transformed this into a ceremony in which the huge black flag carried by the archbishop is supposed to symbolize death (in fact, superstitious belief had it that you would die in the coming year, if the flag touched you while it was carried through the town). The procession ends in the cathedral, where the canons lay down, while the archbishop, in cappa magna, holds up the flag so that the faithful be reminded of the virtue of Christ, who died for us on the cross. The capes of the canons have large, very large trains. Apparently the trains are supposed to symbolize the sins of the world, which would be a good explanation not only for the black color but also for the tremendous length.

As you might recognize in these first four photos, the archbishop wears the biretta under the hood of his cappa, which I find quite strange.

Black and white

Old school

The canons

Those last two photos give you an idea of how ginormous the trains actually are.


Tyler said...

It looks as if the canons also wear their birettas under the hoods of their cappas, as well, no?

leo said...

You're right!